Partners With Benefits

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I've recently learned a lot about the way the City of San Francisco does business.

They sign contracts with for-profit and nonprofit companies for a lot of important work. But for the past six years those two groups have not been treated equally at the negotiating table.

For its for-profit contractors, the City accepted the fact that cost increases were just part of doing business. But they would not consider bids from nonprofits that included even the smallest increases to cover the cost of doing business in San Francisco.

All the while, nonprofits were struggling to make ends meet amidst skyrocketing costs. For years, the City deliberately underfunded contracts with nonprofit partners, essentially strip mining the idealism of these dedicated service providers and driving some to the brink of closing their doors.

But now, all of that is changing.


The City is restoring cuts that were made to nonprofit budgets and granting a 1 percent cost of living increase for nonprofit partners. That may not seem like much, but many organizations at the breaking point will now be able to stay in business.

Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors often talk glowingly about the City's partnership with nonprofits. This policy change shows that they are taking this partnership seriously, that San Francisco is on the path toward becoming, once again, the kind of place where government, community and business leaders work together to find fair and equitable solutions, where sacrifice and subsidies are shared, and where true partnership sees us through the tough times.

San Francisco's nonprofit partners house the homeless, care for the mentally ill, advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, educate and empower young people. We all benefit from the good work they do.

So we should applaud Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors. And we should call on them to continue on this new path toward fully funding San Francisco's nonprofit contracts.

With a Perspective, I'm Susan Larson.

Susan Larson is a board member of the Family Service Agency of San Francisco.